II. a love Story, and a Dedication page 4




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A Love Story, and a Dedication



Brought to the screen by a convergence of tremendous filmmaking talent from all over the globe, The Constant Gardener combines – as only motion pictures can –adventure, social relevance, and emotion.


Director Fernando Meirelles states, “The chance to take on some of the pharmaceutical industry was only one of three elements that made me want to direct The Constant Gardener. Another was the chance – the choice – to shoot in Kenya. And it is also and fundamentally a very original love story; a man who marries a younger woman, and it’s after she dies that he truly falls in love with her and goes looking for her. It’s a beautiful tale, with a touch of the existential to it.”


“For me, theirs is a ‘retrospective love affair,’” concurs Ralph Fiennes, who plays the title role. “There are two equal parts to this movie. On the one hand, it’s a political thriller about corporate wrongdoing, malfeasance and manipulation. On the other, it’s about the relationship between Justin and Tessa Quayle. Justin’s journey traces not only what Tessa was investigating; he’s also playing detective about their relationship. This man rediscovers and re-assesses his own relationship with his wife. It’s a wonderful part, because he goes from being a reticent nice guy to being someone who is forced to confront some pretty tough truths about the world. I hope that the audience sees him as a kind of Everyman.”


Rachel Weisz, who secured the pivotal role of slain activist Tessa Abbott Quayle, adds, “The love story and the political thriller element are completely interlocked – one doesn’t happen without the other, and that’s the cleverness of both John le Carré’s novel and Jeffrey Caine’s adaptation. Because of Justin’s love for Tessa, he goes on a journey of discovery where he reaches a new level of self-knowledge, but he also discovers a huge political scandal.”


“At first glance, Justin appears very passive,” says Meirelles. “He’s a civilized British gentleman, a polite diplomat who lives by a code. He doesn’t fully know what Tessa does; sometimes he would like to interfere, but he doesn’t, not because he’s weak but because he has an agreement with her, and he lives by that code as well. We were all interested in exploring just why Tessa was interested in Justin. She needs an anchor and Justin keeps her sane; he’s so controlled, and she’s so passionate.”


“Justin is a passionate – gardener,” notes Fiennes. “There’s an internal quietude about gardeners, this sensitivity to watching something live and grow, and caring about how something will flourish and bloom. To me, that was all key to Justin. Why does he marry someone as opinionated and passionate as Tessa? I think they’re drawn to one another because opposites do attract.”


Screenwriter Jeffrey Caine remarks, “Ralph and Rachel made me believe totally in the passion and the tenderness of the Tessa-Justin relationship.”


The character of Tessa Quayle is drawn from real life. John le Carré dedicated The Constant Gardener to a passionate activist and tireless charity worker named Yvette Pierpaoli. As part of an on-screen dedication in the film’s closing credits, he describes her as having “lived and died giving a damn.”


In 1999, at the age of 60, Yvette Pierpaoli was killed, along with two other aid workers and their driver, in a car crash in Albania. At the time, Yvette was a representative for Refugees International, part of her lifelong commitment to help other people. That vocation had been set from the age of 19, when she left her native France for Phnom Penh. It was there that le Carré chanced to meet her, during the mid-1970s. From their first encounter, Yvette used every means at her disposal, whether feminine wile or bullish argument, to win the author over, as he remembers:


But it was all for a cause. And the cause, you quickly learned, was an absolutely non-negotiable, visceral requirement in her to get food and money to the starving, medicines to the sick, shelter for the homeless, papers for the stateless and, just generally, in the most secular, muscular, businesslike, down-to-earth way you can imagine, perform miracles...


And though by age, occupation, nationality and birth my Tessa was far removed from Yvette, Tessa’s commitment to the poor of Africa, particularly its women, her contempt for protocol and her unswerving, often maddening determination to have her way stemmed quite consciously so far as I was concerned, from Yvette’s example.

-- “The Constant Muse,” The Observer, February 25th, 2001

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